McBath tells personal story about miscarriages before House committee hearing on abortion rights

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath testifies before a House hearing on abortion rights in Washington on Wednesday

ATLANTA – U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, shared her painful story of multiple miscarriages before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on abortion rights Wednesday.

Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., called the hearing in response to the leak of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion about two weeks ago. That draft opinion indicates the court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that gave American women the right to an abortion.  

McBath raised the specter of the criminalization of miscarriage if abortion is outlawed, saying that she would not have had access to adequate medical care during her three miscarriages if abortion had been illegal.  

“After which failed pregnancy should I have been imprisoned? Would it have been after the first miscarriage, after doctors used what would be an illegal drug to abort the lost fetus?,” McBath asked. 

“I ask because the same medicine used to treat my failed pregnancies is the same medicine states like Texas would make illegal. I ask because if Alabama makes abortion murder, does it make miscarriage manslaughter?”

McBath is one of a growing number of women who have decided to publicly share their stories of abortion and miscarriage in response to the specter of losing the right to abortion. State Rep. Shea Roberts, D-Atlanta, shared her story of ending an unviable pregnancy during a press conference in Atlanta earlier this month.  

“Women’s rights are human rights. Reproductive health care is health care. Medical decisions should be made by women and those that they trust, not politicians and officials,” McBath proclaimed at the end of her testimony.

“Freedom is our right to choose.”

McBath currently represents Georgia’s 6th Congressional District in Washington. However, Georgia’s recent redistricting process redrew the district lines to make it much more Republican-leaning.  

Rather than take her chances running against a Republican in the 6th District in the November general election, McBath decided to run against current U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bordeaux, D-Suwanee, for the 7th District seat in next week’s Democratic primary.  

The battle between the two is one of the most hotly contested Democratic races in the May 24 primary. 

NARAL, a national pro-choice advocacy group, endorsed both McBath and Bordeaux last year.  

Interstate 285/I-20 East overhaul nearing final approval

ATLANTA – A State Transportation Board committee voted Wednesday to approve an agreement with a roadbuilding consortium to redesign the interchange of interstates 285 and 20 east of Atlanta.

The $685.5 million project is aimed at smoothing traffic flow through an interchange rated as the nation’s 25th worst bottleneck last year.

The overhaul will include reconstructing ramps to create more direct alignments, adding new collector-distributor and auxiliary lanes, replacing several bridges and erecting new noise barriers.

The work will be done by East Interchange Builders, the consortium the board selected for the project last month. The lead partners are Archer Western Construction and E.R. Snell, two of Georgia’s leading highway contractors.

Representatives of the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) and East Interchange Builders have been negotiating the agreement during the last month.

It will be a design-build-finance contract, the same model that was used to build the Northwest Corridor toll lanes along I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties and in the ongoing overhaul of the I-285/Georgia 400 interchange.

Under the terms of the contract, the consortium will design and construct the project, then turn it over to be managed by the DOT, Meg Pirkle, the agency’s chief engineer, told members of the board committee with jurisdiction over projects built through public-private partnerships.

“They are [also] solely responsible for the financing of the project,” she said.

Certain contingencies could drive up the cost of the work either for the consortium or the DOT.

Under the contract, the consortium could be assessed penalties for missing project deadlines or for unanticipated lane closures during construction. The DOT would pick up any additional costs of construction materials.

The full State Transportation Board is expected to approve the contract on Thursday.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the middle of next year, with completion in late 2026.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Anthem v. Northside: Insurance Company and Hospital Face Off in Georgia’s Supreme Court  

Former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton stands in front of a portrait of the Georgia Supreme Court that includes him. Melton argued in the Supreme Court on behalf of health insurer Anthem this week.

Two health-care players embroiled in a legal controversy that could affect hundreds of thousands of Georgians’ health care faced off in state Supreme Court Tuesday.  

Lawyers for Anthem (Blue Cross Blue Shield), a large health insurance company, and Northside, an Atlanta hospital system, debated the meaning of “public health emergency” and jurisdiction over legal appeals.

The dispute is rooted in Anthem’s decision to terminate Northside from its insurance network in May 2021. Anthem claims it dropped the Atlanta hospital system because Northside “billed exorbitant sums [to Anthem] over the years” and was “an extreme outlier in costs among Anthem’s contracted providers,” according to a brief filed with the court.  

The insurer and hospital tried to negotiate a solution but were unable to come to an agreement.  

Northside then filed a lawsuit against Anthem last December just before the planned termination was to take effect. A Fulton County judge issued an injunction forestalling Anthem’s termination of Northside from the Anthem insurance network.  

Anthem has now appealed that injunction to the Georgia Supreme Court.  

One legal issue centers around the definition of “public health emergency.” That’s because the General Assembly passed a law during the 2021 session prohibiting insurers from dropping health-care providers from their networks during and for 150 days after a “public health emergency.”

Northside contends that the 2021 statutory reform should bar Anthem from dropping the hospital system from its insurance network.  

But what, exactly, is a public health emergency under the terms of the new law?  

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton – representing Anthem – argued for a narrow definition of a public health emergency, while Northside lawyer Robert Highsmith Jr. argued for a broader definition. 

The Supreme Court’s jurisdiction for determining constitutionality of the Fulton County trial court’s injunction was another issue Melton and Highsmith debated.  

The legal issues may appear arcane to most Georgians. But two justices pointed out that ordinary Georgians are affected by the failure of the two parties to reach an agreement and urged them to come to terms with each other.  

“It might be to the benefit of everybody for y’all just to work this out and moot this case,” noted Justice Nels S.D. Peterson during the arguments.

Tuesday’s appearance was former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton’s first in his old courtroom as a lawyer, not a judge. Melton was appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court by then-Governor Sonny Perdue in 2005. Melton stepped down in 2021.  

Neither side would comment to the media, though Melton did term his first appearance on the other side of the bench “nerve-wracking.”  

Georgians can expect a decision on the dispute within six months.

Georgia senators land federal housing investments

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock

ATLANTA – More than $170 million in federal investments in affordable housing are heading to Georgia, the Peach State’s two U.S. senators announced Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding will come through five programs: formula-based Community Development Block Grants, HOME Investment Partnerships to help rehabilitate affordable housing units, Emergency Solutions Grants aimed at the homeless, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, and Housing Trust Fund Grants for affordable housing for low-income residents.

Most of the money – $96.8 million – will go to the state, with the remainder headed to 27 localities across Georgia.

“These robust federal investments in our state’s housing infrastructure will make it more affordable for hardworking Georgians at every income bracket to find better, more cost-effective housing,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga. “These investments will help elevate families into the working and middle class.”

The $170 million is in addition to $469,841 in federal pandemic relief funds Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., secured last December to upgrade affordable housing for low-income Georgians in rural communities.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Port of Savannah reports record-breaking April

Port of Savannah

ATLANTA – The Port of Savannah set a record for containerized cargo last month, while the Georgia Ports Authority reported its third busiest month ever.

Savannah’s Garden City Terminal handled 495,782 twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEUs) in April, a record for the month, the ports authority reported Tuesday. The terminal now handles nearly one out of every nine loaded containers crossing the nation’s docks.

Meanwhile, the ports authority’s containerized trade increased 6.2% last month compared to April of last year.

The growth is related in part to retailers replenishing depleted inventories and making early orders to ensure product availability. For the first 10 months of fiscal 2022, the ports authority has handled 4.75 million TEUs, up 8% year over year.

“Our long-running program of infrastructure expansion, coupled with the authority’s ability as an owner-operator to speed up the schedule of development, has allowed the Port of Savannah to adapt to heightened container volumes,” authority board Chairman Joel Wooten said Tuesday. “On-terminal and inland capacity improvements enable cargo to flow across our docks without congestion.”

Savannah was recently ranked the top U.S. container port by loaded export volume, handling 1.38 million TEUs in calendar year 2021.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

State awards federal grants to help offset economic impacts of pandemic

Gov. Brian Kemp

ATLANTA – Georgia’s hotel industry will receive by far the largest chunk of more than $415 million in federal pandemic relief grants announced by Gov. Brian Kemp Monday.

The Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association (GHLA) will get $150 million to help offset the losses hotels across the state have sustained during the pandemic.

The GHLA is among 33 Georgia recipients of federal assistance through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) President Joe Biden signed into law in March of last year.

The recipients were approved by one of three committees Kemp formed last summer to determine how to distribute Georgia’s $4.8 billion share of ARPA aid among state and local governments, businesses and nonprofits applying for the money.

The Negative Impact Economic Committee included Pat Wilson, commissioner of the state Department of Economic Development; State Economist Jeffrey Dorfman; Georgia House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn; and state Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia.

“I’m proud of our state’s resilience,” Kemp said Monday. “We have worked hard and identified ways to further deliver assistance to hardworking Georgians, support businesses and speed up the recovery of impacted industries and rebuild crucial public services.”

While business and vacation travel is starting to bounce back, COVID-19 hit the hotel industry harder than most.

“This program will provide Georgia’s hospitality industry with the support it needs to create and sustain jobs for people throughout the state, helping the industry return to its pre-pandemic level of success,” GHLA Executive Director Jim Sprouse said Monday.

Other recipients of grants announced Monday include the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which will receive about $29.6 million, and Buckhead Christian Ministries, which will get $12.7 million to expand an emergency assistance program.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development will receive about $11.5 million to help performing arts venues around the state recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

“The arts and culture sector contributes $23.8 billion to Georgia’s economy, and getting it fully back on track after pandemic-caused economic harm is a priority,” said Tina Lilly, executive director of the Georgia Coucncil for the Arts. “Governor Kemp allowed our arts and entertainment venues to safely return to work earlier than many other states, and the funding he announced today will provide further assistance in restoring this sector.”

The GHLA will allocate its grant funding through a formula that will be tested through a pilot program. A deadline for applications will be determined in the coming weeks and apply to Georgia hotels that were in operation before the pandemic.

“We will make this a fair, data-driven application process that will get critical funds into the right hands efficiently,” Sprouse said. “We have the right partners in place to ensure this program succeeds.”

The state awarded more than $422 million in federal ARPA grants for water and sewer project across Georgia earlier this year as well as more than $400 million for broadband projects.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.